"Sorry if my snoring bothered you."
Those are not the first words I'd expect out of the mouth of someone who got up on a Friday morning to catch the 10:30 AM screening of a new movie but that is more or less what the fellow who'd been sitting behind me said as I passed him on my way out. I'd heard him snoring over the constant rat-a-tat-tat of bullets and butt-kicking being doled out by Milla Jovovich et al in this latest iteration of the never-ending Resident Evil series (this time in IMAX 3D) but I figured maybe I was hearing things. Nope he was asleep.
I used to play Resident Evil on my ancient PlayStation when it first came out. It scared the crap out of me. I enjoyed the first two movies — hey they included the skinless zombie dogs! — but I lost interest soon after that. How many times can you make the zombie apocalypse exciting? How many different skintight outfits can Jovovich wear while killing grotesque creatures who shoot evil grasping tentacles out of their mouths? Why should we care about all the blood and guts when we know the people we're supposed to be emotionally invested in will never die? We don't.
Try as he might there are only so many ways for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson to give the Resident Evil series fresh new layers for each new movie. The Umbrella Corporation is the big bad. They were playing with biological weapons and somehow there was an accident that let one of the viruses loose... and boom you've got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. Our heroine is Alice played by Milla Jovovich and there is a rotating cast of characters who help her fight the good fight against the hordes of brain-eaters and whatever is left of the Umbrella Corporation that's now after her. There are some parallels to the video game series but Paul W.S. Anderson (a gamer himself) has taken lots of liberties with the basic plot over the years. While Anderson's flashy style is especially suited to these types of movies there's not enough plot to make it work.
We don't go to video game movies for plot of course but there has to be something to hold onto; otherwise why would we care if our protagonist were in danger? Anderson tries some neat tricks to snap us back to attention like bringing back characters that were killed in previous movies and throwing in a cloning subplot that calls into question some of the characters' true identities but it's still hard to get worked up about anything onscreen. However it ultimately sidesteps any deeper ideas that might take our attention away from all the guns. And there are so many guns and explosions and elegant butt-kickings doled out by Milla and her pals (or former pals in the case of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain) that they blend together.
It is especially difficult to work up any interest in the story because it's a franchise and no matter how many times the stars or director might say they're not that interested in doing another everyone is just waiting to see how much money this will make before deciding to go forward. There is no question how franchise movies will end; there will be no derring-do on the part of the writer or director to actually kill off a beloved character permanently. At one point it seemed like Anderson was going to pull the old "And then she woke up!" trick which would have been bold both because it's such a hackneyed idea that it would make writing professors' heads explode all over the world but also because it would have required Anderson to play in a different universe and expand his repertoire a bit. Alas like Alice and Anderson himself we just can't seem to escape this rabbit hole.
Nothing shimmered at the Dec. 5 premiere for "Diamonds" in Westwood more than the grace of star Kirk Douglas, who returns to the screen for the first time since his stroke in 1996.
The actor, who turns 83 today, plays a former boxer who takes his son (Dan Aykroyd) and grandson (Corbin Allred) on a road trip to recover 13 diamonds he stole and hid in Reno. The road trip includes an encounter at a house of ill repute overseen by Lauren Bacall, but ultimately becomes a bonding experience for the three generations.
For Douglas, who arrived with wife Anne, it was a perfect fit.
"It's a powerful role, but it's not a difficult role," Douglas said, his speech still affected by the stroke. "Because I play a man recovering from a stroke, and that's something I know something about. But I love the picture because it has so much humor and so much humanity, so I was very lucky to get the part."
The film pairs veterans Douglas and Bacall with young faces, including 27-year-old Jenny McCarthy, who plays a prostitute in the film and said she was very nervous about working with the screen legends.
"I wanted to make them proud," said McCarthy, sporting black curls for her next film role. "As an actress, it was really hard to be in the scene when I wanted to just watch the scene."
She calls working on the film "the most amazing experience of my life," but it's also in reference to her recent marriage to "Diamonds" director John Asher, 28, who says fell in love with McCarthy during a wardrobe fitting.
"It was literally like getting in a car accident, but it feels much better," Asher said of meeting McCarthy. "It just happens. You have to believe there's a soul mate out there."
The guest list was a Who's Who of classic Hollywood, drawing names such as Karl Malden, Cyd Charisse, Cathy Moriarty and Mariette Hartley. Sally Kirkland said, "Here's Kirk standing up for all stroke victims, saying ... if [he] has the courage to be an actor after that, then we all have the courage."
But for Douglas, a grandfather and father of four sons (including actor Michael Douglas), the spotlight is less about his return than the film's family ties.
"I have learned one thing. All fathers and all grandfathers: You do the best you can," Douglas said. "But you will never win. What I mean is, you will always make mistakes because in the last analysis, it's up to each individual.
"My kids are responsible for their actions, so you do the best you can. But you can never be a perfect father or grandfather. My sons can never be perfect sons -- although Michael came close," he joked.
"Diamonds," released by Miramax, opens for an exclusive one-week Oscar run Dec. 10.